Alphabet's self-driving car tech division, Waymo, has been making quite a bit of progress with their vehicles lately. Back in October, we reported the company's vehicles could be intelligent enough to handle emergencies without any human input.
In November, the company announced their plans to roll out a fully autonomous transportation service -- entirely composed of Chrysler Pacifica minivans -- in Phoenix. Though Waymo has already been testing that service throughout the city on a smaller scale, it's expected to roll out in earnest sometime this year.
However, it isn't just minivans that have gotten the Waymo treatment. The company has also been working on a fleet of autonomous semi trucks and they're finally ready to be put to the test. Beginning sometime next week, Waymo will be launching a pilot test in Atlanta, Georgia where their fleet of self-driving trucks will be "[carrying] cargo bound for Google's data centers."
To accomplish this, Waymo will be teaming up with Google's logistics team to accelerate the development of their self-driving semi truck technology and "integrate it into the operations of shippers and carriers."
"So far, [our focus] has mostly been on people; last fall we put the world's first fleet of fully self-driving cars on public roads in the Phoenix area," Waymo said in a blog post. "Now we're turning our attention to things as well."
To be clear, this isn't the first time Waymo has tested their semi trucks in public - the company is well aware of the many differences between driving a semi truck and driving a traditional minivan. As such, they've been working out the kinks with the technology in the months leading up to this test.
"Over the past year, we've been conducting road tests of Waymo's self-driving trucks in California and Arizona," the company said. "Our software is learning to drive big rigs in much the same way a human driver would after years of driving passenger cars."
Since this technology is still in its infancy compared to some of Waymo's other projects, their autonomous semi trucks will have "highly-trained" drivers in the cab at all times, ready to take control of the vehicle in the event of an emergency or an AI hiccup.